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Quarter million dollars a big step toward preserving major piece of Brooklyn's history
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New Utrecht Reformed Church

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Friends of Historic New Utrecht

Eds: For the attached photo, in the picture, left to right are:

Photo by Friends of Historic New Utrecht

Friends of New Utrecht members Dario Marotta, Maureen Ann Clements, David Elligers, Rose Lood, Robert Buonvino, Erik Ander, Mary Shields and Vincent La Marca with Assemblyman Peter J. Abbate Jr., center, as he presented a $250,000 check to be used toward repair and restoration of the New Utrecht Reformed Church, a Brooklyn landmark dating back to 1828.

Immediate release

Brooklyn - On the very ground where George Washington once stood, New York State Assemblyman Peter J. Abbate Jr. has taken a major step toward making certain that a major piece of Brooklyn's history is preserved.

Abbate announced that $250,000 from the Assembly's capital funding will be used toward restoration of the landmark New Utrecht Reformed Church at 18th Ave. and 84th St. in Bensonhurst, a stone and wood structure that until late in 2003 had been an educational resource for thousands of New York City school children to learn about the early history of Brooklyn and the nation.

"More than ever it is necessary for our young people and others to have a good understanding of what this country is all about," Abbate, a Democrat, said as he presented a large replica of the actual check to Robert Buonvino, president of Friends of Historic New Utrecht, and Rose Lood, president of the New Utrecht Liberty Pole Association and a longtime church leader.

"Hopefully, these funds will encourage further government and private donations and be a sign of our commitment toward repair and restoration of this major piece of Brooklyn's history," the assemblyman said. He called the building, dating from 1828, an "American treasure" that cannot be replaced. Engineers and architects put the cost of repairs at $1.8 million.

Abbate toured the building, where scaffolding now supports the roof. It was erected soon after the doors to the former Dutch Reformed Church sanctuary were closed to the public just before Christmas out of concern that the roof might fall in under the weight of last winter's snow.

Since then, historian Buonvino has said, the building has sat "quietly and dark, awaiting our help." Now," he adds, "thanks to the assemblyman and others, we are starting to financially see the light of day." Besides government funding, he said, "we have a need for more private citizens, banks, foundations and companies to all work together for the benefit of our children and community."

Until late 2003, the building, with its historic architecture, stained-glass windows and pipe organ, had housed numerous public school programs, many centering on the early history of the nation. "In this 'cultural-educational shrine'," Buonvino has said, "we have brought together thousands of school children, placing them in a setting that 'cries out' with the kind of knowledge it is essential for them to experience."

On the site where the presentation ceremony took place Oct. 8, George Washington visited students at an academy, a portion of which has been uncovered by college students in an archeological dig on the church grounds. It also has become the place where the annual Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade has its closing ceremony, as it did on Saturday.

When Washington visited, the New Utrecht Reformed Church, which first opened its doors in 1677, had its building near 16th Ave., where it still maintains its Old Dutch Cemetery, the oldest operating cemetery in the region including Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau and Suffolk counties. The 1654 burial ground is used by the Friends organization for educational tours for students and other groups throughout the year.

The church grounds are easily identifiable by the Liberty Pole on its front lawn, 106 feet high with a "Liberty Eagle" on top. The first pole was placed there in 1783 to celebrate that the British were leaving the shores of what was to become the United States of America.

Persons interested in learning more about Brooklyn's early history are invited to call 1-718-256-7173 or 1-718-234-9268. They also may log onto the Friends of Historic New Utrecht's Web site at www.historicnewutrecht.org. Contributions for repair and restoration of the landmark are welcome at Friends of Historic New Utrecht, 1831 84th St., Brooklyn, NY 11214. Checks, tax deductible, may be made out to the Friends of Historic New Utrecht Restoration Fund.


Public relations services donated by bhprEspeciallyForChurches October 12, 2004


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